The Nature of Things: The Beltway snipers

The Nature of Things: There's more than one kind of SPAM

In baseball, a batting average at or above 0.300 is considered outstanding. It means that a batter gets about one hit for every three times he comes to the plate. Now let's relate that statistic to the "batting average" of all the news media's expert psychological profilers, ex-intelligence officers, extrasensory perceptionists and other dealers in witchcraft who made all the cable talk shows during the weeks before the Beltway snipers were apprehended. If it were mathematically proper, their batting average should be below zero.

The talking heads on TV, in order to fill air time on their 24-hour coverage, during which there were practically no new developments, interviewed an endless parade of "experts" all of whom expounded their profiles on the killers with a high degree of certainty.

Most of them predicted that the sniper was a lone, white male in his 20's or 30's, probably linked to the neo-Nazi, right-wing extremists (in other words, another Timothy McVeigh type). He had to be an ex-military psychopath out to avenge society for some grievance in the past.

One of the worst news anchors was Connie Chung who asked the most stupid, irrelevant questions, thereby evoking the most stupid, irrelevant answers. One of her experts on profiling proclaimed with total confidence that the sniper was addicted to violent video games and hunting.

Another, who was a former New York police detective, knew beyond a doubt that the shooter was not a Muslim because he wrote "I am God" (all Muslims know Allah is God). A New York magazine critic meant on the air to predict the sniper got his jollies by rushing home to watch all the publicity on TV. Never mind that his Chevy Caprice wasn't wired for cable. Then there was a New York Post columnist who was absolutely positive that the sniper was foreign born.

These would-be experts were all over the board with their profiling. About the only thing they agreed on was that the sniper was a lone, white male driving a white van. When the killer turned out to be a middle-age black Muslim with a teenage accomplice sleeping in a small Chevy, it should have set the art of profiling back to the stone age.

However, this misguided dalliance with voodoo predictions was not the most disturbing thing about this entire media fiasco. What is really sickening was the so-called mainstream media's obvious bias in their reporting after the snipers were caught. They put the accent on Muhammad being an army veteran while almost ignoring his conversion to radical Islam.

The New York Times along with the TV networks tried desperately to connect Muhammad to the neo-Nazi skinheads in Washington state but failed to make the connection. Instead of reporting that he was a radical Islamic terrorist whose sympathies were with al Qaeda, and who thought the Sept. 11 attacks were justified, these journalists wanted to talk about the sniper's military record.

They first put out information that Muhammad had gone to sniper school at Fort Lewis, but that turned out to be false. So what if he had? The army trains soldiers to kill enemy combatants and not innocent Americans such as a 13-year-old schoolboy or a middle-aged black bus driver.

Now that the whole world knows who the snipers are, the news media and their profilers have egg all over their faces, but I haven't heard any apologies or retractions from anyone. They still continue to deny any implications of bias in their reporting. But in this writer's opinion, their bias is a mile wide and 100-feet deep. The whole episode was disgusting, and is being written off as "just trying to improve their TV ratings." We might as well be watching "Beavis and Butthead."

the facts are that these two killers are terrorists by anyone's definition of the term. And most of us are not the least interested in their motivations or childhood backgrounds. Let's just get on with their trials so they can become acquainted with Virginia's death chamber, so they can get their lethal injection.

If there has ever been a better argument for capital punishment, these two terrorists just made it.

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